Toronto Star column – published March 9, 2013
“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.” ~Doug Larson
The first sure sign of spring is only 6 sleeps away. Canada Blooms, the venerable ‘Flower and Garden Festival’, starts next Friday and it promises to bring in spring with a bang.
Celebrating their 17th year, ‘Blooms has been in the planning stages for a full year. Located at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place, the facility will be buzzing with activity for the entire week leading up to the Friday, March 15th opening. Members of Landscape Ontario, the horticultural trades association, will be moving in stones, interlocking pavers, sand, gravel, mulch, and, of course, many truck loads of planting soil. Why? To plant tens of thousands of flowers, trees, shrubs, and evergreens in full and glorious bloom.
The colour and foliage that Canada Blooms delivers to its visitors each year comes at enormous effort. Lilacs, rhododendrons, forsythia, maples, magnolias, and you name it are forced into early leaf and bloom in temperature-regulated greenhouses. The opening buds are choreographed to produce the best possible show at precisely the right time.
Magic In The Garden
The plants chosen to be forced into an early spring performance for the event are selected after much care and thought is given to the design of each garden. This year there are 20 feature gardens. Each is designed by a company or individual with their own vision of beauty, based on this year’s theme of “Magic In The Garden”. Only after a design has been approved by the judging committee can the plant selection be made.
In addition to the many tonnes of hard material and thousands of plants, there are countless ‘man-hours’ devoted to the planning, preparation, and installation of the gardens. It has been estimated that over 9 million dollars of labour, material, and plants have been invested in the 20 feature gardens.
Putting it all together is not rocket science, but it comes close.
I mention the gardens here as they are the #1 attraction at Canada Blooms each year.
But there is so much more to it than that. Over 200 hours of instruction/demonstrations/lectures and entertainment in 2 different venues: the Unilock ‘OntarioGarden’ theatre and the ‘Grey Power’ Garden Solutions Series Room in Hall A.
My friend Denis Flanagan and I will open the festival with an overview of the event and suggestions of how you can get the most from your day at Canada Blooms. Look for us at 11 a.m. on the Unilock stage next Friday, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday. Check out the many personalities and gifted presenters in detail at www.canadablooms.com.
Back to the feature gardens for a moment. This year promises to provide a diverse selection of themed gardens that are bound to suit every taste and situation. Whether you live in a condo with a small balcony or a fully detached home in the country, there will be garden design ideas here that will inspire you.
A long-time supporter of ‘Blooms, Anna Van Maris and her team have partnered with Tourism Ireland and Royal Irish Tours to create ‘A Spring Gathering’ garden. It reflects over 2,500 similar ‘gatherings’ in Ireland this year. Walk the cobbled pathways set amongst the standing stones and rolling emerald hills. Then pause to consider the magic of Ireland’s past…and future. Be sure to ask about your chance to win a trip for two to Ireland for ‘The Gathering Ireland 2013.’
Gardens By Lucin – Equinox.
Always something special here. Lucin provides a nod to classical design and sensory stimulation. EQUINOX is the perfect urban garden to celebrate the return of spring with friends and family. Exactly what that means we will find out next Friday!
Mori Gardens and Reif Winery.
I have lost track of the number of years that a ‘wine garden’ has been featured at Canada Blooms, but I can tell you that it is always a hit. This year the well-established Niagara plant retailer Leno Mori partners with Reif Winery to create something very special. The garden itself is a “WineSensoryGarden”, designed to contemplate the colours, aromas, and flavours used to describe wines. It is set in a relaxed garden oasis. Reif Estate will share wines that will pair perfectly with cheese samples presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada.
Pacific East Landscaping is a new participant this year and their contribution is promising. Their garden description indicates that they will bring the grace of Chinese landscapes through Chinese tea tasting in a pagoda; look for the winding bridge and stone-paved path over a pond of gold fish. The central message is one of a connection of man and ever-changing nature as reflected in the building, stones, and the movement of the water. The goal is harmony of the Five Elements that bring balance and peace to their garden.
Inspiration for Condo Gardeners
The Ron Holbrook garden envisions a contemporary terrace designed with a condominium owner in mind, featuring a covered outdoor sitting area and hedged with European Green Beech. The herb garden and outdoor bar servery add something special for people with a culinary bent. Mr. Holbrook’s garden designs are never a disappointment.
One landscape contractor with a gift for creating exciting water features in the GTA is Genoscape. Canada Blooms welcomes Joe Genevieve and his team back with this unique garden. The Genoscape garden features different types of water features, as well as sunny and rainy areas. Check out the “real rainbow” created with mist and rain droplets. Magic.
The ways in which we use our outdoor spaces are always changing. Visitors to Canada Blooms this year can enjoy a new style of garden from Shawn Gallaugher. It is designed to improve your physical and mental well-being using a unique three pronged approach: a combination of exercising outdoors, being in a garden, and a part of nature in a magical experience of renewal. This is not your typical outdoor gym.
The food services at Canada Blooms have been improved since last year. Be sure to look them over in Heritage Court and the space beyond. For the second year in a row the Flower and Garden Festival co-locates with the National Home Show to create the largest event of its kind in North America.
There is surely more happening at the combined events to keep anyone gainfully busy for a least a day or two. Plan on carving some time out of your schedule between Friday, March 15 and Sunday, March 24 for a visit.
Next week in this space I will provide a comprehensive overview of Canada Blooms and I will offer advice on how you can get the most out of your time there. Stay tuned.
Canada Blooms highlight
Join Niki Jabbour, the author of The Year Round Vegetable Gardener for a dynamic presentation that will spotlight her techniques and favourite veggies for stretching the home-grown harvest 365 days a year! Niki will be speaking on the Garden Solutions Stage on Friday, March 15.